By Joseph Serna, Staff Writer
Candidates for Long Beach’s 6th District had another opportunity to win the public’s vote for Tuesday, May 1, last week, when all six candidates appeared at the League of Women Voters candidates’ forum at the California Recreation Center.
In similar fashion to the Wrigley Association forum, candidates were offered opening and closing remarks, with all of the questions coming from the audience. While that meeting focused on business development for the district, last week’s meeting focused more on dealing with the district’s children and violence.
A few answers even surprised the audience.
Lee Davis addressed what she sees as Long Beach police officers’ role in gang involvement, calling them “abrasive” and encouraging a more police-friendly approach. She shared in other candidates’ vision of giving children places to congregate outside of street corners.
Most candidates shared a vision of encouraging mentorships and youth opportunity programs to address gang concerns, as Lillian Parker and Alvin Austin recommended. Ed Acevedo, a teacher in Long Beach, advocated getting the impressionable youth work, saying the young adults need “the hope and opportunity a job brings.”
Though it may seem cliché, candidates reiterated that influencing children starts in the home. “How would the next 6th District Council member get parents involved?,” the moderator asked on behalf of an audience member.
Ahmed Carl Saafir said increasing parental involvement is not easy, and requires door-to-door footwork. It involves starting small until it grows, he said. He spoke of getting neighbors together, then a street, then a block, until whole neighborhoods are involved in their children’s lives.
Parents need to be held accountable for their children’s actions, according to Dee Andrews, a 6th District resident for 60 years. The audience seemed to agree with Andrews when he said the unfortunate truth is it might take one incident at a school for parents to become involved. Andrews is making his third run for the Council seat.
Austin questioned whether a government could really make parents more accountable, instead advocating making Long Beach government more responsive to the residents’ needs.
Candidates were divided in their opinions of the attack of three women in Bixby Knolls on Halloween night. While Andrews and Davis regard it as a wake up call to racial tension in Long Beach, Acevedo and Austin broadened it to a wake up call for Long Beach youth in general.
Davis took the opportunity to reiterate her call for an ethics commission to hold city officials accountable, especially the police.
“There’s so much brutality in the 6th District,” she said.
Candidates were unanimous in saying fear is pervasive in the 6th District, and community outreach is a prime avenue to address it. Davis went as far as to say the district is “spiritually dead,” which evoked some gasps from the audience.
She also produced a mixed reaction from the audience when she suggested relocating Long Beach Airport for air-quality sake and took credit for former President Bill Clinton’s recent visit to the city.
Andrews and Parker both supported a “facelift” for the airport, minus the expansion, as did Davis. Acevedo, Austin and Saafir all supported the current plans for the additional 97,000 square feet.
“They have followed, they haven’t lead. I am a leader,” Davis said of her fellow candidates in her closing statement. “These candidates want to get in and be used by the establishment. They have safe platforms.”
Those platforms, somewhat uniform among the candidates, involved housing and business development and youth crime prevention. Both Andrews and Parker played up their longtime residencies in the 6th District, with Parker saying she would be a voice for the Long Beach cut off from downtown.
Austin spoke of his integrity, and Acevedo encouraged affordable housing.
Davis emphasized passing an ordinance for predatory lending and government accountability through ethics commissions and mediators with the community.
By the end, many of the District’s concerns were heard.
“[The forum] was really needed,” said attendee and Long Beach resident Vickey Pruitt. “We’ve always been last on the list.”
The Long Beach Special Municipal Election will be Tuesday, May 1.